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A Different Time

The center building in the photo above is a Federal-Style rowhouse. It’s the last survivor of its row, with a tenement on one side and a small industrial building on the other. The Federal style was used in New York, roughly, between 1800 and 1830, so this house is on the order of 200 years old. The graffiti and the newer neighbors give a hint that things are not as good as they once were.

If you look closely, you can see the change in brick color above the second floor. It’s likely that this house used to have a gable roof with the ridge parallel to the street, and the top two floors we see now replaced the old attic. The front entrance looks remarkably intact.

This house is near where Monroe Street crosses under the Manhattan Bridge, so depending on your perspective it’s the fringe of Chinatown or the fringe of the Lower East Side. Neither of those names was in use when this house was built – it was in the Fourth Ward. This was a residential area on its way down: during the brief period that New York was the capital of the US, shortly before this house was built, George Washington lived in a house on Cherry Street, not far away. Not that long after the house was built, this area was occupied mostly by poor people; by the time Al Smith grew up near here, after the Civil War, it was a slum. This was a house of some pretension when built, so the neighborhood’s decline was not yet visible to the speculative builders who constructed rows of houses.

The area is now slowly on its way up. It would be great if this building could be kept as an apartment house, as it currently is, or otherwise hang around. little longer.